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Best Time To Exercise If You Have Type 2 Diabetes

best time to exercise if you have type 2 diabetes

It is well accepted that physical activity is a critical and fundamental part of managing glucose levels in people with diabetes. Now the authors of a new study have identified what they believe to be the best time to exercise if you have type 2 diabetes.


Daily exercise is recommended for type 2 diabetes to help manage blood glucose and fat levels, which in turn can reduce the risks for cardiovascular disease and other complications of diabetes. Wouldn’t it be great to know the best time to exercise to reap the most benefit from every session?

A research team at the University of Missouri (UM) conducted a study and announced that the best time to exercise if you have type 2 diabetes is after dinner. What type of exercise is best following your meal? The researchers named activities such as leg curls and abdominal crunches, which are in a category known as resistance exercise.

The exercise study
Thirteen obese individuals with type 2 diabetes participated in three trials in random order to identify the impact of resistance exercise on concentrations of glucose and triacylglycerol (TAG; aka triglycerides, a type of fat).

  • Dinner consumed without performing any resistance exercise
  • Resistance exercise performed before eating dinner
  • Resistance exercise performed 45 minutes after eating dinner

Here’s what the investigators found:

  • Compared with no exercise, doing resistance exercise before dinner lead to a reduction in glucose levels
  • Compared with no exercise, doing resistance exercise after dinner resulted in reductions in both glucose and fats
  • Although duration and intensity of exercise are important, so is when one exercises in people who have type 2 diabetes

The findings of this study are important because they can help doctors develop a more personalized exercise program for their patients, according to Jill Kanaley, professor in the Missouri University Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. Because the benefits of after-dinner resistance exercise do not last very long, Kanaley suggests individuals with type 2 diabetes do the exercises every day.

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Would doing exercise after breakfast have the same impact? Kanaley noted that future research will look at this scenario as well as how a person’s hormone levels can have an effect on exercise benefits.

Various factors can influence the advantages individuals with type 2 diabetes can attain from exercise. Along with when one exercises, other things to consider include intensity and duration of exercise, type of exercise, use of medications, fluctuating hormone levels, diet, and stress.

Another exercise study
In a previous study conducted at the University of Otago in New Zealand, researchers evaluated the impact of exercise on blood glucose when it was performed before meals. The impact of two types of exercise were analyzed: 30 minutes of continuous exercise or six one-minute intense exercise sessions, both done 30 minutes before eating.

Researchers found that the six-minute intense sessions were more effective at controlling blood sugar than were continuous exercise sessions. When participants completed less-intense one-minute exercise sessions, they needed to do them daily in order to see the blood glucose benefits.

If they completed intense sessions, however, they could see results by performing every other day. Note that this study, unlike the UM study, compared exercise impact before meals only.

The findings of the UM study suggest that resistance exercise performed after dinner can provide more benefits than activity before dinner. Anyone with type 2 diabetes may want to discuss this information along with other exercise suggestions with their physician so they can establish the most beneficial exercise routine for them.

Also read about games to play to help control diabetes
Heden TD et al. Post-dinner resistance exercise improves postprandial risk factors more effectively than pre-dinner resistance exercise in patients with type 2 diabetes. Journal of Applied Physiology 2014. Doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00917.2014